Just being in “The Yukon” is a kick. Jack London, Call of the Wild, White Fang, and dripping with Gold Rush history. It feels like civilization is in the rear view mirror and now Alaska looms on the horizon. A day’s drive through cloud-shrouded scenery brought us to Watson Lake, where we were thoroughly impressed by the “Signpost Forest”.
We both love installation art… and the “Sign Post Forest” is an amazing example of a massive art installation project. It all started with an Army soldier by the name of Carl K. Lindley from Danville, IL. He was with the 341st Engineers, Company D, and he worked on the Alaska Highway in 1942. Feeling homesick, he posted a sign for his hometown, with the mileage. Soon others added to his sign post, then others. Soon there were multiple signposts. Today there is a “forest” of posts with license plates, street signs and handmade signs of all descriptions on all sorts of innovative materials (gold pans, carved wood slabs, frying pans – you name it). Travelers from around the world leave their mark in an ever-growing physical demonstration of “I was here”. We estimated that it covers about three acres and there are over 61,000 signs and growing every day. The next morning before hitting the road, we left our own mark in the forest…
At the end of the day we stumbled upon another art gem in the town of Teslin. There is a good sized, free exhibit of wildlife dioramas at the Yukon Wildlife Gallery which is associated with the Yukon Motel and Lakeshore RV Park – hosts Steve and Juanita Kremer. The exhibit features exceptional taxidermy mounts of Yukon wildlife by Chuck Buchannan. They are depicted in detailed dioramas showing their natural environments. The striking thing about the exhibit is the skill in which the artists have portrayed the interactions between the animals; and the posing of the animals in realistic positions. There is an incredible level of skill in these representations – and once again we were left with the feeling of having seen world class art in pretty remote surroundings.
We pushed to and through Whitehorse Junction with only a brief stop to do some shopping. We were not really excited about lingering in a city environment. (The entire Yukon has a population of about 34,000, and 24,000 of those people live in Whitehorse Junction.) Rain set in just as we were leaving in the morning, and a mostly rainy drive was in store for us as we continued on the Klondike Loop towards Dawson City. We were looking forward to arriving in this mecca of mining history and were not disappointed. We stopped by the Klondike Visitors Association and were directed to their historic Dredge Number 4 and their public mining claim, where we could do some panning. The dredge was impressive and undergoing rehabilitation – eventually it will be raised from the mucky silt it sits in.
After a couple of hours of panning at the KVA claim we called it a day and were able to camp across the road.
Dawson City has dirt/clay streets with boardwalks instead of sidewalks, giving it a real “old time” feel, and many of the buildings in town reflect a turn of the century architecture as well.
If you ever get to Dawson City be sure to have lunch at the “Jack London Grill” – the food is excellent, and if you are in need of supplies “The Emporium” is a true general store, with a bit of everything and everything we needed on that day, including high rubber boots for panning and a Whisper Light camp stove and fuel (for our canoe trip!). There were also a couple of cabins on rafts – apparently some folks make their homes on the river!